The Thinking Classroom

I was recently at an in-service about “The Thinking Classroom” where we were learning about how to pose questions to students in an open-ended, group work setting. We were taught how to set up vertical, non-permanent surfaces around our class and to make random groups of our students. The randomization of the groups is because all questions will be the same and all students will have an entry point. Students are also encouraged to walk around and look at others answers rather than to cover the answers to their question. We were also provided with a copy of the book behind this math that allowed us to learn more. The book also has some great question ideas in it. Here is the link to the book, well worth the read: Building Thinking Classrooms

After gaining all this knowledge, I decided to try it out with a question in my classroom with my friend who is a Math Facilitator in our school board. My students did well answering the open ended question and worked well in their groups (for the most part).

Benefits I noticed:

  • new students stepping up as leaders as they weren’t with their same group of usual friends
  • students feeling confident with their work
  • less students feeling anxious in the math classroom and asking to leave to take a break
  • almost 100% participation
  • students trying to solve as many possible answers as they could rather than stopping at one
  • competitive mindsets
  • students looking around at others answers to get ideas


  • anxious students who do not work well without that specific friend did not participate (only 2/24)
  • a few students giving up because it was too hard

We used a few different surfaces for this thinking classroom math:

  1. Window/window markers
  2. Wipebooks
  3. Chalkboard

I also am trying out a variety of open-ended questions during these math lessons to get my students thinking:


It takes a while to get used to it, especially because the question you are asking your students do not necessarily need to relate to which part of the math curriculum you are at. They are also not meant to be evaluated as part of your students math mark. Instead, we were told to use it as part of our observations to inform how we assess collaboration within learning skills. If you are using it as a math mark, suggestions include asking your students to write in different colour whiteboard markers so you can see who did what.

I look forward to sharing more of our progress with this new way of thinking as our journey continues.


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